Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis
Showing posts with label Wattles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wattles. Show all posts

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Thirlmere Lakes visit yesterday

The Thirlmere Lakes are looking worse than ever. We found some Japanese visitors wandering around in the bush, presumably looking for the Lakes.

But Kirsten and I were looking for Orchids and we found lots of them.
We were barely in the gate on Slades Road when we spotted out first colonies of them. I had Acianthus (just about finished) and Pterostylis nutans on my side of the road, and Kirsten was getting excited about a really good colony of the tiny Trim Greenhoods (Taurantha concinna) on her side of the road. 

We saw hundreds of the Trim Greenhoods along the roadside, especially down beyond the 4th dry lake.

The Wattles were spectacular, the birds were singing, and it was a good day to be out and about.
Hardenbergia violacea
Trim Greenhoods were very common along the road
which runs the full length
of the Thirlmere Lakes National Park.
Trim Greenhood (Taurantha concinna) from rear.

Trim Greenhood - note the forked labellum. (Click to enlarge)
Grevillea arenaria subsp. arenaria (as best as I can work out)

Nodding Greenhood (Pterostylis nutans)
Gompholobium grandiflorum

Pixie Caps (a few still in flower) - Acianthus fornicatus
A roadside scene - Wattles lining the track
Sydney Blue Gum in Blue Gum Creek
 Strange but beautiful growth on a leaf of a native plant.
Deformed growth on leaf. Possibly "galls"? Very pretty, though

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Centenary of Wattle Day + more Orchids

Thanks to Kirsten's Facebook page, I now realise that tomorrow, the 1st of September, is National Wattle Day. It has not always been thus, (our Queensland cousins used celebrate it in August); but in 1992, the first day of September each year was declared 'National Wattle Day' throughout Australia. The first 'national' Wattle Day was celebrated in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide on the First of September 1910. You can read more about the history of Wattle Day on the Wattle Day Association site.

Here is a Wattle growing in my yard, which grows naturally in the Mittagong area. Close, but not "natural" in Robertson's red soil. But the plant does not mind. Anyway, it happens to be the only photo I have to hand of any flowering Wattle. I have other Wattles in flower, but I am slack, because it is dark outside now and I am not going to try to take any new images now.This is a very narrow-leaved Wattle, which has ball-shaped inflorescence (compound flower structure) not long "rods" as the other flower-structure of some Wattles is known.
More Orchids from Albion Park, on Sunday.
Hymenochilus bicolor.

This one was a complete surprise to me - I have never seen it, or even heard it talked about by the local ANOS enthusiasts. Kirsten showed it to me, but was quite matter-of-fact about it. She didn't expect me to get excited about it, but I did.

Clearly this is a close relative of yesterday's unpronounceable Orchid (lets just call it the "gibbosa". Some authorities put them both in the same group - Oligochaetochilus. More generally, yes, they are both Greenhoods (Pterostylis) in the old classification. This one is now known as Hymenochilus bicolor.
Click to enlarge to see the unusual "knob" on the labellum
and note that the labellum is otherwise thin and flat.
It has a distinctive black beak-shaped gland on the labellum, which distinguishes if from the closely related H. mutica.

What I think of as a "semi-side-on" photo.
It shows the labellum being free-standing from the cupped structure
below the flower, which are actually the lateral sepals.
Although they look to be cup-shaped, they are not.
They are partially fused, but technically they are two separate organs.

It differs from yesterday's Orchid in having small rounded lateral sepals, which are not recurved (sweeping backwards as in yesterday's plant). The top part of the flower (the galea) is very similar in both species. The Labellum is very different from yesterday's plant, being a shallow spade-shaped organ (not a thick protruding structure), with the black bump at the top (well base of the labellum, actually).

That latter clarification is necessary, because Orchid specialists describe the labellum (and other parts of the flower) as having the base as that part which is closest to the point of origin (where it starts to grow from). But of course, as we see the black bump, it is at the top of the labellum. But botanically, it is at the "base" of the Labellum. That's why the labellum illustration below (on the right) appears to be "upside down". Convention has it that you start where the labellum separates out from the rest of the flower, that's all.

Photographed in profile.
This angle accentuates the rounded cup-like structure
of the lateral sepals held below the flower,
and of course, enclosing the Labellum.
This image mimics the angle of the botanical drawing above (top left).

Unlike yesterday's plant, this one is not endangered, and is fairly widely distributed.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Wattle Day 2009

I have previously posted about "Wattle Day" as 1 September (or 1 August for Queenslanders).

Today I shall publish some images of four of the six wattles which are in flower on my property today. Today's images are all "cultivated" species - which are readily available at commercial nurseries, especially those which specialise in Australian Native Plants. These plants are regarded as "screening plants" (not trees) and can easily be trimmed to shape with a "Long-handled Pruner" (or "Lopper") Such a tool can be bought economically from Nurseries, hardware stores, etc. Beware cheap, weak-handled devices, though.

These are all "shrubby Wattles" not trees, and not ones liable to grow too quickly, then die out in a few years. That is a feature which annoys many people who plant inappropriate species of Acacias.

Acacia pravissima - the Wedge-leaved Wattle, or Ovens River Wattle..
Here are some leaves and buds
Here is a spray of buds - which will open soon.
I like this local plant, which grows wild around Mittagong.
It has very narrow leaves (phyllodes).
I believe this is Acacia elongata
The flowers are bright golden balls, but they are spaced along the stem.
Here are the flowers - up close.
This is a wonderful garden variety
Acacia fimbriata variety "dwarf"
Dense sprays of flowers are a feature of this variety.

This year, I shall settle for republishing something Peter Garrett has published today to celebrate Wattle Day, 21 years after the Golden Wattle was officially declared to be Australia's National Flower - which happened on Wattle Day, 1 September 1988.

The history of the event is interesting, as is the association with Hiroshima, of which I was not aware.


Environment and Heritage Minister Peter Garrett today led celebrations marking the 21st anniversary of the declaration of the golden wattle as Australia’s official national flower.

At the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra, Mr Garrett joined former Governor–General Sir William Deane to open a new exhibition Celebrate Our Wattle. The exhibition documents the place of wattle in Australian art, botany, history and culture, with a particular focus on the use of wattle by Indigenous Australians.

“Twenty-one years ago today, Mrs Hazel Hawke planted a golden wattle in these national botanic gardens, proclaiming the wattle Australia’s national floral emblem,” Mr Garrett said.

“The wattle has long been valued by Indigenous Australians and it has been part of Australia’s identity ever since Sydney first declared Wattle Day on the first day of spring in 1901.

“After Prime Minister Andrew Fisher incorporated the wattle into our Coat of Arms, it soon became a symbol of remembrance with Australian mothers sending small sprigs to their sons serving overseas in World War 1 to remind them of home.

“It has been a poignant symbol of loss and respect at ceremonies mourning the young Australians who died in the Swiss canyon disaster and later, the victims of the Bali bombing.

“The wattle features on our highest national ward, the Order of Australia, and the green and gold have been our official national colours since 1984.”

It is said that a wattle was the first plant to bloom in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. To mark National Wattle Day, Hiroshima’s Acacia Appreciation Society sends the Gardens hundreds of yellow ribbons as a gesture of friendship. Visitors are encouraged to take ribbons home and attach them to their favourite trees.

The Celebrate Our Wattle exhibition features an embroidered sculpture of golden wattle, commissioned by the Friends of the Gardens and created by embroiderer Lynne Stone, who lost her home in the devastating Marysville fire in February this year.

“The original sculpture Lynne was working on was destroyed in that terrible fire, along with most of her possessions, so her beautiful golden wattle sculpture is a moving symbol of loss and recovery,” Mr Garrett said.

Celebrate Our Wattle runs at the Australian National Botanic Gardens until 11 October.
For more information visit

Back to my Blogging - for the botanically minded, the Golden Wattle is Acacia pycnantha.

Here is another plant, which unfortunately, I do not have the species name for, any longer.Here is the bush seen against a background of a neighbour's Cypress tree. This plant is growing on a raised bank of soil. It is only about 2.5 metres tall.
I bought all today's plants at Wariapendi Nursery, at Colo Vale, north of Mittagong.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

First ducklings of the year in Robbo.

On a warm balmy winters day (it surely felt like Spring) I was lucky to find the first clutch of the Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) ducklings, today. No doubt it was by chance that today was a warm balmy day for these little guys to be paddling around with their parents. After all, even if they had hatched last week (quite probably) the parents had mated some time before. They have an incubation period of approximately 28 days, plus the large clutch size (there are 10 ducklings in this clutch) means some 38 to 40 days between first egg being laid and the fledging of the chicks.

The male Wood Duck has a dark brown head, and fine silvery body.
The female has a paler brown head, white eye marking,
and heavy flecks on the abdomen and flanks.
So their seasonal timing is great, but the particular weather today is surely fortuitous. But we could all enjoy the good weather together.

As is typical of Wood Duck pairs, the mother duck leads the ducklings away from danger, while the father is keeping himself between the ducklings and danger (me and my camera).
I know this "macho" behaviour is a cliche, and I risk lapsing into an anthropomorphic interpretation of animal behaviour, but I always find this behaviour totally endearing.
The male is standing guard.
He is on the right, and closer to danger than the ducklings.
Interestingly, the last time I saw a Wood Duck family, it was the male which led the way for the family, rather than standing between the ducklings and danger. That sighting was on 8 September 2007, nearly 3 weeks later in the season than today's sighting. Both were on pools beside the Moss Vale Road. Today's sighting was below Burrawang. The previous one, just beyond Sheepwash Road. So they were only 2 kilometres apart.

And here is a sure sign of a late winter day - a Wattle tree in full bloom.

"Green Wattle" - Acacia decurrens - in my yard - image taken this morning.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Crisp mornings bring perfumed air.

It has been a week of contrasting weather patterns (rain; cold, strong winds; warm balmy weather; more rain; more winds; and this morning crystal clear skies with no breeze at all). So, I was pleasantly surprised when, this morning, I woke to a crystal clear sky, a light frost, and a sweet perfume hanging in the air.

I am talking about natural aromas, here, not Chanel No 5!

The local Sassafras trees are in full flower (as you have seen recently). They have a sweet, light perfume. Not particularly distinctively scented - unlike their leaves, which remind me of Mandarin rind when peeled. But that scent is only noticeable when the leaves are crushed - it does not travel - unlike the trees' sweet floral perfume.

Some of my Wattles are starting to bloom, as well. These are not endemic species, but garden plants, such as Acacia decurrens, which is the earlier flowerer of my two species of ferny leafed, tall wattles.
Acacia decurrens flowers are sweetly scented.
The other similar tall ferny-leafed Wattle which I grow, A. mearnsii flowers in late October, in Robertson.
Close-up of Acacia decurrens flowers.

When I came in for my regular shift at the local Community Technology Centre (where I just answer the phone and help people get onto the Net - nothing too technical, I can assure you) I was greeted with the sweet scent of the creamy Jonquils known (for some reason) as "Straws".
Their official name is Narcissus tazetta var italicus - so "Straws" is easier. These have a sweet perfume which can be a bit over-powering inside a house. But when outside, with the perfume wafting around on the fresh air, the scent is truly delicious - to my nose. This is all the more satisfying, as I planted these flowers, several years ago, when the CTC was newly built.
The "cup" of the Jonquil is how it earns its Latin name "tazetta",
meaning "Little Cup".
Another CTC volunteer at the time, "Boney" helped me rescue these plants, and many others from an old garden in Robertson where the house was due to be demolished. If his partner BJ is reading this in Western Australia, Hi from Robbo! You're in that linked picture too.

Although the Jonquils were really obvious, I realised while photographing them that there was another, even sweeter perfume on the air. It comes from the beautifully named Lonicera fragrantissima. I am sure all my readers can work out what that means. The first name means it is a Honeysuckle. But if you need a clue the "issima" ending on a plant name acts as a superlative - so it means "most" or "very". So, "fragrantissima" - its not hard is it? So, if you are familiar with the sweet smell of a honeysuckle vine scrambling over your neighbour's fence - then imagine how sweet this one is.
Honey Bee in the Honeysuckle flower
It is a Honeysuckle, but not one of those invasive straggling vines. This is a dense shrub. I love this plant for the reason of what it does on days like today. For the rest of the year I have to stop people from wanting to chop it down - for it looks dull and has stiff stems and hard leathery leaves. A most unattractive shrub, visually.

But today I took all the visitors to the CTC outside to stand in the sun and be bathed in the sweet aroma emanating from this plant. I know we are far from Spring, but today, the plants seem not to know that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tiny Greenhoods and a Terminal Wattle

Yesterday I went to Manning Lookout, a Sandstone bluff overlooking the Kangaroo Valley, just a few Kilometres from Robertson. This Lookout is near Fitzroy Falls, but it overlooks the centre of Kangaroo River valley (and the village of Kangaroo Valley). By contrast, the lookouts at nearby Fitzroy Falls mostly look into the giant valley of the Shoalhaven River - with a southwesterly perspective. It is all part of the same Shoalhaven valley system, just that the Kangaroo River starts above Carrington Falls, north-east of Kangaroo Valley village, and it runs south-west until it meets the Shoalhaven River system. These days, the junction of these rivers is within Tallowa Dam.

Manning Lookout is one of my favourite places, locally, both for scenic attractiveness, and also for plants, fungi, birds and for gentle bushwalking. But yesterday, the main point of interest was the local autumn-flowering plants. There were many Banksias just coming into season, and I shall deal with them in the coming days (if my computer is ever returned to good health).

Today let us examine some of the "Tiny Greenhoods" (Speculantha sp. aff parviflora). As with most Greenhoods, this plant was previously known as a "Pterostylis". I have written about these plants many times, now, as there are numerous variant forms in the local area, and at Nowra (on the coast south from here). What was of interest was to see the form which grows here in shallow moss gardens on exposed sandstone rock shelves, within about 50 metres of the cliff faces.

Unlike the classic "form" of this species of Greenhood, which is simply green and white, this plant has distinct brown colouration on the top and front of the flower. It has small "ears" or "points" which do not protrude above the 'hood" of the flower (unlike the longer "eared" form I have shown previously, from near Nowra). When seen from the side, like this, you can see that the "sinus" (lets call it the gap at the front of the flower) of this form is not "stepped when viewed from the side" (PlantNET). Contrast it with this form of what is apparently the classic "parviflora" type of Greenhood - which has a very prominent step or protruding bulge in its "sinus".

The point about this location is that it means the plants are subjected to the full extremes of the weather - drying winds, lashing rains, and with a mere inch of soil below the moss, very little reserves of moisture to keep the plants alive over the summer. That latter condition of course, is what determines their predilection for flowering in autumn - after the heat has gone. To further highlight the tough conditions in which these plants live, if you look back at my earlier post about Manning Lookout, where I discussed Mallee Gums living there, you will see how tough and demanding is this localised "desert-like" environment (although it is a high rainfall area, these plants are living in a "virtual desert" on top of a sandstone cliff, with little or no soil). There Tiny Greenhoods are growing on rock shelves where not even the Mallee Gums can survive, but they are a mere handful of metres away from the Mallee Gums. There is a physical limitation to the size of plants which can survive on these exposed rock shelves, (insufficient soil to hold their roots - tall shrubs and trees would blow over), but tiny "heath" shrubs, and perennial plants such as Orchids and Sundews thrive amongst the mosses.
Here is the "Tiny Greenhood" as seen from the front.

By pushing the flower back slightly, I was better able to show you the "sinus" of the flower - it is not deeply notched, as some of these Tiny Greenhoods are. "Sinus shallowly notched when viewed from the front" (PlantNET) In fact this form does not appear to be "notched" at all.Here is a "mature" or ageing flower. The brownish colour has gone more red (which commonly happens in these brown forms of the plant). The "points" on the lateral sepals are just starting to protrude above the "hood". It seems to me to me to be unlikely that these points "grow" - so I assume that the "hood" starts to collapse as the flower ages, leaving the points protruding. I guess that is something which one could determine with some accuracy with a set of calipers, over a week of the life of an individual flower - but I have never done that measurement test.The point I am making about the variation amongst these related plants is that, in my opinion, there is ample evidence to classify them as different species. I know that David Jones, formerly from CSIRO and the Australian National Herbarium agrees, but he simply did not have the time to classify all these numerous variants from the "type" of the "Tiny Greenhood". He has retired now, but I understand he is still hoping to "publish" his conclusions on the revision of these "Speculanthas". It cannot come soon enough for me.

Another plant which was flowering abundantly at Manning Lookout yesterday is the Sunshine Wattle (Acacia terminalis). I mentioned this plant the other day, when discussing the "Sweet Wattle" which is just coming into flower on the Budderoo Plateau.

Here is a flower stem, with a fully opened head of flowers,
one set of partially opened flowers,
and one "head" with a single flower opened.

Next is a close-up study of the single opened flower. (Click to enlarge the image).
This image shows the buds of other flowers just starting to open.

You can clearly see the hard sheath-like petals from which the stamens of the flowers protrude.
These hard shell-like petals are permanent, and stay hidden by the "ball" of stamens which we think of as the flower. They do not fall, unlike those bracts which surround the buds in the "Sweet Wattle", prior to the true flower opening. For a more technical description of flowers of Acacia plants see this post, and this link to how the "botanists describe" Wattle flowers (see Fabaceae - Mimosoideae).
Here are some leaves of the Sunshine Wattle.

This plant has true leaves, not Phyllodes, as do the vast majority of Australian Acacias.

By the way, I do not know why this a plant is called Acacia "terminalis" - but I have left it to the end of this post to declare that fact!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"The First Koel"

This morning, after the fog lifted about 10:00am (hooray), and watery sunshine broke through, I heard a strange bird calling. Strange for Robertson, anyway. It was a Koel. (Eudynamys scolopacea) - referred to as the "Common Koel" - obviously not a name from Robertson!

These birds are common on the coast, and these days they are common around Bowral in summer, but I have never seen or heard one in Robertson before.

Koels are Cuckoos which parasitise the nests of the large members of the Honeyeater family of birds - generally Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Friarbirds. As Robertson is not an area where Eucalypts dominate the vegetation, we have relatively few nectar-bearing native plants here. As such, we are not a popular area for the Wattlebirds and Friarbirds. I have seen both here - but as migrants, flying through in migrating flocks in spring and autumn. We do have visits by the "Brush Wattlebird", but they come in when the local Mistletoes are in flower, on the Blackwood Wattles. While here, they also visit the other nectar-producing flowers we people tend to grow in our gardens. But as far as the natural bvegatation is concerned, the Mistletoes are about the only food source, for the Brush Wattlebirds here, and even they are seasonal, for only one species grows on the one species of Wattle. When these plants are not in flower the Wattlebirds move out of the area. Consequently, without their favourite "host species" of birds it has not surprised me that Koels are generally absent from Robertson.

However, here it was this morning - on Christmas Morning.

Nobody who has heard the Koel's call would refer to it as "carolling" - but forgive me a seasonal pun... it was "The First Koel", visiting me, simply for musical reasons and in search of seasonal relevance.

You may listen to the Koel call here (scroll down to the bottom right of that page, and click on the MP3 link). My bird was apparently a female, doing the second of these calls, not the slow single "ko-el" call, which is the one first played on the recording.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Spring Pruning - preparing for a hot windy summer

Integral Energy, our local electricity supplier, and one which the last NSW Premier and Treasurer wanted to sell off, has come through and pruned trees along Missingham Parade. And then, yesterday morning, shortly after 7:00am, they were knocking on my front door, to advise me that they were going to prune some trees on my block. This is part of their planning for a forthcoming hot and windy season. Sounds fair enough to me. I know that the line across my paddock feeds down to rural property along Belmore Falls Road, down in the valley below my place.

I have shown photos of these plants when they were first planted by Zoe and myself on 17 May 2004 (Click here to see Zoe celebrating having planted plants in the otherwise bare paddock). These plants have been pruned 3 times since they were first planted. Once to "top them" to reduce their direct vertical leaders, and make them bush out (when they were young saplings). Then in July 2007, my friend Peter came with his chain saw to knock them back - because I could see they were growing too tall, under the powerlines (when just 3 years old). Now, a year later, the Integral Energy guys gave them a real "Boy Prune", as the phrase is.
I last wrote about these trees under the heading Green and Gold, back on 11 August, as they were just coming into flower.

I originally anticipated that these plants would grow quickly (not as quickly as they have done) - and act as a temporary screen and wind break, while other plants established themselves, down in the paddock below the house. Wind is the issue down there - it is very exposed to southerly winds.The reality is that the Wattles have jumped out of the ground, but other plants have been less successful. So I will keep on cutting their heads off, and hope that other self-sown seedlings of plants like Pittosporum and Sassafras do establish themselves under the shelter of these trees.

One Wattle which has grown reasonably well is this small shrub of Acacia fimbriata "compact form". The true species grows in a much more open manner. This one will never pose a problem for the power lines. Nor will the few Camellias which are growing down there.I mentioned recently, when writing about the leaves and phyllodes of Blackwood Wattles, that mature Blackwood Wattles eventually form an open crown. This is what I meant. Most of the Blackwoods on my place are young plants (regrowth) and have not reached that stage - and still have dense crowns.

And, here is a surprise visitor - a Willy Wagtail - which was on the fence while I was taking the other photos, late in the afternoon. Lousy light, but it is the first time I have ever seen a Willy Wagtail at my place (it is definitely not a rainforest bird) - so I was not going to miss the chance to try and get a photo. Sorry, but it was the best I could manage - the bird was a bit nervous of my presence.